Chinese authorities have announced a list of political offenses against Uighur academic Ilham Tohti, who has been detained since last week, accusing him of leading a separatist group that advocates violence to overthrow the Chinese rule in the restive Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.
The academic’s wife said the accusations are groundless.
The Bureau of Public Security for Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, said in an online statement on Saturday that Tohti recruited followers through a Web site he founded to cause trouble, spread separatist thoughts, incite ethnic hatred and engaged in separatist activities.
It said the academic told his students that Uighurs should use violence and oppose the Chinese government just as China opposed Japanese invaders during World War II.
Tohti has not been formally charged, but prosecution is all but guaranteed as China tightens control over the region where a series of clashes between native Turkish Muslim Uighurs and Chinese police have killed dozens of people in the past several months.
In fresh violence on Friday, Chinese state media reported that 12 people were killed in explosions and clashes with police. A spokesman for an exiled Uighur advocacy group blamed Chinese authorities for the deaths.
Tohti was taken away from his home in home on Jan. 15 without his family being given any official account.
His wife, Guzaili Nu’er, said that the family has not been informed of his whereabouts or his formal detention. She said family members were under 24-hour police surveillance.
“I don’t know what they are talking about. It is nonsense,” she said of the accusations against her husband.
“Do they really think the university would allow him to say such things in class? He’s just an ordinary teacher. Why are they saying these things?” she told Reuters by telephone from her house.
“And all this stuff about East Turkestan elements. What rubbish,” she added.
The Uighurs have complained of discrimination from China’s majority Han people and of repressive religious policies, but China says it is cracking down on terrorism inspired by radical Islam.
Tohti has not joined calls for Xinjiang’s independence, but his outspokenness on problems with China’s ethnic policies has made him a target of Chinese security forces.
He has criticized the authoritarian Chinese government’s heavy-handed handling of recent unrest, saying China’s stifling security presence, widespread discrimination and restrictions have fanned ethnic discord in Xinjiang.
Additional reporting by Reuters